Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Drawing a line in the sand on Healthcare reform


Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY-R) told Democrats in the Senate that `every election this fall will be a referendum" on health care reform. McConnell, was rattling his saber after President Obama threw down the gauntlet, where he said congress owes the American people a final vote on healthcare reform. The president gave his blessings to procedural `reconciliation,' a way by which Democrats bypass what has become unanimous Republican opposition to the legislation, in other words, get'er done!

Mind you, the healthcare reform bill is flawed. And, the ways by which the miles high pile of details contained in this bill, the nuts and bolts of "what this legislation" would mean to the American people, have been short in coming to say the least. Republicans and others have seized upon what they portray as frightening hints of socialism, portraying the bill as government interference into the private sector that they falsely proclaim serves us well. But, truth be told, we live in a nation that is home to a healthcare system that does serves some well, while it neglects our less fortunate, the uninsured citizens among us, a number now approaching 50 million with another 15 million considered "under-insured." Even those who are insured, are unlikely to sing the praises of their insurance companies, especially in these days of skyrocketing premiums and added costs where every nook and cranny within the healthcare system's costs are already interconnected much like a synthetic rubik's cube.

Take note, a February 16 RAND Corporation analysis found that the Senate healthcare reform plan would cause overall health spending to increase by 2 percent because of 'increased utilization among newly insured people.'
For those worried about increased health care costs, RAND says the legislation would help drive down out of pocket insurance premiums. Researchers at RAND estimated that premiums in the employer-sponsored market in 2019 would be 2 percent lower and the premiums paid by individuals buying insurance through exchanges would be 3.7 percent lower than otherwise expected.

Further the analysis found that by 2019, about 28 million people would purchase insurance through the Health Benefit Exchanges mandated by the legislation. The Exchanges would be state-run organizations through which private companies would sell health insurance to individuals. Researchers at RAND estimate that 15 million of those who use the exchanges would qualify for government subsidies to help pay for their insurance.

RAND predicts that among the 25 million Americans who would remain uninsured in 2019, about one-third (9 million) would be eligible for Medicaid but not enroll.

The study finds that health care legislation passed by the Senate would cut the number of uninsured Americans to 25 million by 2019 (a 53 percent decrease) and increase overall national spending on health care by about 2 percent cumulatively between 2013 and 2019.

Perhaps what makes all of this back and forth politicking over healthcare reform even more infuriating, is that Democrats have yet to seize this bull by the horns and broadcast the deeper truths and connect the dots for those Americans who do have insurance already. Truth's like findings from the privately run Commonwealth Fund who reported in a August 2009 study, that employer sponsored health insurance premiums increased by 119% from 1999 until 2008. The study projects that premiums will double again without some sort of reform measure.

Fact of the matter, with healthcare reform as it stands, American families will likely save almost $4,000 by 2020 according to the Commonwealth Fund study.

As things stand, Democrats have yet to demonstrate that they have gumption and ability to forge legislation through to fruition that will impact the lives of their constituents in a positive way. With the current somewhat flawed, but still `incrementally' positive healthcare reform bill, Democrats have the chance to show they are proactive as leaders and that government can do good things for its people. The President is correct to ask that they draw a line in the sand, and that they pass this bill.

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